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Insomniac's Brain Is 'Like A Light Switch That is Always On'

Update Date: Mar 02, 2014 05:29 PM EST

Parts of the brain that control movements in people with chronic insomnia, are more active and more adapting to change compared to people with normal sleeping patterns, a new study has found. 

Patients with insomnia have increased excitability among neurons that are located at the back of frontal lobe, the study mentioned. The findings support the notion that insomniacs are in constant state of heightened information processing often interfering with sleep. 

"Insomnia is not a nighttime disorder," said study leader Rachel E. Salas, an assistant professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the press release. "It's a 24-hour brain condition, like a light switch that is always on. Our research adds information about differences in the brain associated with it."

Presently, 15 percent of the U.S. population is affected with this common sleep disorder and researchers said they had hopes that study would lead to better diagnosis and treatment.

Total of 28 subjects were considered for the research among which 18 had suffered with insomnia for a year or more and the remaining 10 were considered good sleepers with no reports of troubled sleeping. 

After outfitting with electrodes in the dominant thumb and an accelerometer to measure the speed and direction of the thumb, participants of the study were given 65 electrical pulses. In the process they were also trained to move their thumb in the opposite direction of the original involuntary movement. 

Unexpectedly researchers found that the brains of those with chronic insomnia had much more plasticity. 

Researchers said they are not sure about the origins of increased plasticity in insomniacs and they are yet to find if increased plasticity is beneficial.

The findings are detailed in the journal Sleep

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